Aldus Manutius, a recent reassessment by Oren Margolis

Aldus Manutius, a recent reassessment by Oren Margolis Stephen Butler Rare Books & Manuscripts

A recent biography of Aldus Manutius by Oren Margolis was written to co-oincide with the 500th anniversary of Aldus’ death. 

Aldus Manutius: The Invention of the Publisher 
by  Oren Margolis.
Reaktion, 206 pp., £13.85, October 2023, 978 1 78914 779 7

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Aldus revolutionised printing during the Renaissance, and between 1495 and 1515, he produced an unprecedented number of editio princeps of classical texts in Venice. Collaborating with punchcutter Francesco Griffo, Aldus designed a graceful new Greek typeface and introduced the italic font, shrinking books from large volumes to pocket-sized editions.

Despite his remarkable contributions, Aldus was a complex figure. He faced internal conflicts, including disputes with his workers and strained relationships with renowned scholars like Erasmus. Yet, his passion for humanist printing and tireless dedication to his craft reshaped the landscape of reading and literature.

Aldus’s journey into printing began in his forties, after a diverse career as a papal secretary, tutor, and humanist scholar. Establishing a printshop in Venice, he embarked on an ambitious project to publish Greek books, collaborating with Greek scholars to locate and reproduce previously unpublished manuscripts.

Despite his fervent dedication, Aldus faced financial challenges and rigorous competition in the printing industry. Yet, his determination led to the creation of numerous editions of Greek classics, laying the groundwork for his transition to publishing Latin works in pocket-sized formats.

Aldus’s innovative approach to publishing transformed the relationship between readers and books. His pocket-sized editions allowed for greater accessibility and portability, fostering a more intimate connection between readers and classical literature.

Ultimately, Aldus Manutius’s legacy extends beyond his technical achievements in printing. He embodied the spirit of the Renaissance, striving to revive classical knowledge and shape the future of literature through his pioneering work in publishing.

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